Slater v. Teague et al
ORDER denying without prejudice 16 Motions requesting counsel 16 , 18 , by Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak on 9/20/2017. (jgonz, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 17-cv-02084-PAB-STV
COREY A. SLATER,
KENNETH TEAGUE, and
DOUGLAS COUNTY JAIL
Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak
This civil action comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s letter requesting counsel
[#16] and Motion for Appointment of Counsel [#18] (collectively, the “Motions”). Plaintiff,
proceeding pro se, filed the instant action alleging that Defendants violated his First
Amendment rights while he was incarcerated at the Douglas County Jail. [#4] Plaintiff’s
Motions seek the appointment of counsel to assist Plaintiff in prosecuting this action.
[#16, 18] Following its review of the Motions, the case file, and the applicable law, this
Court DENIES the Motions, without prejudice, for the reasons stated below.
The determination of whether to appoint counsel in a civil case is left to the
sound discretion of the district court. Rucks v. Boergermann, 57 F.3d 978, 979 (10th
Cir. 1995). In deciding whether to request counsel for a civil litigant, the district court
should evaluate "the merits of a [litigant’s] claims, the nature and complexity of the
factual and legal issues, and the [litigant’s] ability to investigate the facts and present his
Hill v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 393 F.3d 1111, 1115 (10th Cir. 2004)
Under Local Rule of Practice 15(f)(1)(B), the Court applies the
following factors and considerations in reviewing a motion for appointment of counsel in
a civil action: 1) the nature and complexity of the action; 2) the potential merit of the pro
se party's claims; 3) the demonstrated inability of the unrepresented party to retain an
attorney by other means; and 4) the degree to which the interests of justice will be
served by appointment of counsel, including the benefit the Court may derive from the
assistance of the appointed counsel. D.C.COLO.LAttyR 15(f)(1)(B). "The burden is on
the applicant to convince the court that there is sufficient merit to his claim to warrant
the appointment of counsel." Hill, 393 F.3d at 1115 (quoting McCarthy v. Weinberg, 753
F.2d 836, 838 (10th Cir. 1985)).
"Only in those extreme cases where the lack of
counsel results in fundamental unfairness will the district court's decision be
overturned." Id. (quoting McCarthy, 753 F.2d at 839).
In support of his request for appointment of counsel, Plaintiff states that he lacks
knowledge of the law and that he has unsuccessfully tried to obtain counsel “through
multiple outlets.” [#16] Plaintiff also states that he has recently “been burdened with a
multitude of paperwork” and that he has had difficulty understanding the legal
terminology. [#18] Finally, Plaintiff contends that attorneys have told him that he has a
great case, but that they cannot take his case because their caseload is full. [#29-1]
This Court has considered Plaintiff’s request for appointed counsel in light of the
factors identified in Hill and D.C.COLO.LAttyR 15(f)(1)(B).
This case remains at the
very early stages of litigation. Given the early stages of litigation, the Court cannot
evaluate the merits of Plaintiff’s claims.
Moreover, the allegations in the Complaint do not suggest that the case is
unusually complex. Plaintiff appears to possess knowledge of many of the facts needed
to prosecute his case. Moreover, Plaintiff is no longer in custody, and should therefore
be able to conduct any necessary discovery and investigation. But, if as the case
proceeds it becomes clear that retained experts are necessary, or that the case is
unusually complex, Plaintiff can file a renewed motion for counsel.
Finally, while Plaintiff has represented in his Motions that he has unsuccessfully
contacted some attorneys, the Motions only identify three such attorneys. Moreover,
Plaintiff contends that these attorneys have told him that he has a great case, but that
these attorneys are simply too busy at this point to enter their appearances. If Plaintiff
contacts additional attorneys who are currently less busy, one of those attorneys may
agree to represent Plaintiff.
Given these factors, the Court cannot conclude that the interest of justice would
be served by appointment of civil counsel. If, as the case develops, the merits or
complexity of the case become clearer, Plaintiff may renew his request.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motions requesting counsel [#16, 18]
are DENIED without prejudice.
DATED: September 20, 2017
BY THE COURT:
s/Scott T. Varholak
United States Magistrate Judge
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